The American Board of Accredited Certifications is investigating Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) for allegely engaging in anti-competitive business practices by colluding with the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB).
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Kathy Abusow, President & CEO of SFI pleaded with the Commission about her organization’s certification and seals of approval, in which she quoted, “SFI does not certify organizations as conforming to the Standard – that is done by independently accredited certification bodies. The certification bodies follow international protocol established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) which require a clear separation between the standards developer and the certification body conducting the audit. All certification bodies who wish to perform certification to the SFI Standard must be accredited under the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB).”
ABAC is questioning SFI’s demands that certification bodies “must be” accredited by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). Restraining competition always always leads to higher prices, reduced quality or levels of service, or less innovation. It is unlawful for a company to monopolize or attempt to monopolize trade, meaning a firm with market power cannot act to maintain or acquire a dominant position by excluding competitors or preventing new entry
Over 285 million acres of land across Canada and the United States are certified to the SFI forestry management standard. Therefore, if SFI is only accepting or recognizing one accreditation body (ANAB), it would be discriminating against ANAB competitors. If that’s the case, SFI could be in violation of antitrust laws, and thus, subject to prosecution.
The first antitrust law, and the most important was the Sherman Act which outlaws “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and any “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” The penalties for violating the Sherman Act can be severe, individuals and businesses that violate it may be prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
On the SFI website, the company could be misleading businesses and consumers by claiming to have “several layers of oversight” to support its certification program “overseen” by The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF). However, in public records, both ANAB and IAF ironically have the same individual (Randy Dougherty) in leadership roles as either Vice President, Chairman, and/or Secretary. Therefore, ABAC is questioning the actual impartiality of these organizations, and more importantly, the so-called several layers of oversight SFI is claiming to have from these over-seers.
ABAC reached out the SFI leadership to confirm whether or not the company accepts certification bodies accredited by organizations other than ANAB or accreditation bodies independent of IAF. We have yet to receive a response from the company. If SFI fails to reply after one more attempt, ABAC will be filing a complaint with the FTC Bureau of Competition and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for violation of antitrust laws.